Uber and the Ongoing Erasure of Public Life

By Nikil Saval : newyorker – excerpt

Uber has become a subsidized alternative to the public-transportation systems that it claims to support.

Last September, Uber rolled out a rebranding campaign. A new television commercial showed car doors being flung open and the young and the old crowding in, flying out, and ending up in a small open-air mercado or at a lake. Though there were a few drivers, the image presented was of ceaseless, liberating mobility for passengers, anywhere in the world. Uber changed its logo, too, to a demure sans-serif display—white against a black background, its only flourish a modest pair of mirrored stems attached to the “U” and the “b.” This was a significant change. Since 2016, the phone app and the stickers that identified Uber-enabled cars had enjoyed an image designed partly by the co-founder and then-C.E.O. Travis Kalanick: a circle bisected with a cord, placed against the background of a colorful tile. When tilted ninety degrees counterclockwise, some design and technology journalists noted, it looked unmistakably like a human bent over and seen from behind.

The era of what has been referred to as Uber’s “asshole” logo happened to coincide with the company’s longest stretch of bad press, including multiple reports of sexual abuse inside the company and by its drivers. In 2017, the company’s investors ousted Kalanick. His successor, Dara Khosrowshahi, has made considerable efforts to improve the company’s image in advance of a likely I.P.O. this year. Last October, Khosrowshahi, like many corporate leaders, pulled out of a summit held by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, in Riyadh, following the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Uber still benefits from vast infusions of Saudi funding.)… (more)

Continue reading

Advertisements

Bay Area’s New Transit Station Reopens Parking Debate

By Rachel Dovey : nextcity – excerpt

It’s a classic indicator of success in California, a sign that when you built it they did indeed come (in cars). It’s the giant parking lot — whether football field-sized or rising in a multi-storied garage — and while it’s so often bestowed on retail centers, sports arenas and even churches, the question of whether it should accompany popular transit hubs is still a sticking point among many city planners.

In the East Bay city of Antioch, however, soaring ridership numbers may force consensus…

The transit agency now plans to add 700 parking spaces on another lot it owns close to the station. But if the lots continue to be packed, and commuters’ parked cars continue to line neighborhood streets, BART may reopen what the Chronicle calls a “long-standing debate … over whether building more parking is the best way to promote the use of public transit.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to divert people off the roads and onto transit rather than have them continue driving to the urban core?” Keller said, according to the paper… (more)

Build parking and people will park and ride.

Muni oversight board to nominate new leadership as group calls for ouster

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

ed-head

The transportation oversight board that oversees San Francisco’s Muni system — and hires and fires its executive director — is set to see a shakeup in its leadership.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors is poised to vote among its members for a new chair and vice chair next week, the agency confirmed. The move comes during a time of great scrutiny for the agency…

The co-presidents of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, an influential political group in the local LGBT community, called on Mayor London Breed to oust its longest standing directors in a letter

The letter cites the summer Muni meltdown, ongoing Muni train “switchbacks,” and an agency contractor laying 3 miles of the wrong type of steel track as mounting grievances that it lays on the shoulders of the current SFMTA board…

The letter noted those directors could fire SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, who Breed herself put on notice with her own scathing letter earlier this year…

Heinicke, who has served on the board since 2008, has often been the voice for the ailing taxi industry, but is also known as a pragmatist who weighs both drivers and transit options.

“Drivers are people too,” he argued last September when asking SFMTA staff to reach out to local drivers while planning a pedestrian safety project.

Gwyneth Borden, another SFMTA board director and head of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, is expected to be voted in as vice-chair. She also is seen by some insiders as a vote to possibly oust Reiskin, the SFMTA director.… (more)

It is about time. Ten years of damage is enough for any city to put up with. Now is the time to hit City Hall with the personal letters you have been meaning to write. Now is the time to demand change at SFMTA.

Glen Park GoBike station could add congestion to an already chaotic intersection

By Sally Stephens : sfexaminer – excerpt

An intersection in the Glen Park neighborhood has become the poster child in the fight over the placement of bike share docking stations in neighborhoods.

During morning and evening rush hours, the block of Randall Street between Chenery and San Jose Avenue is a mess. The narrow street is clogged with commuters trying to get to I-280, school buses, and parents double parking their vehicles to drop off kids at Dolores Huerta ElementarySchool (formerly Fairmount).

Motorists entering Randall from Chenery often have to back up into the intersection so buses and trucks going the other way can get through. Adding to the chaos, school kids — without the benefit of crossing guards — run across the Randall/Chenery intersection to a market to get drinks and snacks before school…

Now the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is considering putting a GoBike docking station on that intersection next to the school. Supporters say that the location is highly visible and has ready access to Chenery, the traditional bike route to the Glen Park BART. Its location will provide a “transit opportunity” for parents, teachers, and school staff, encouraging them to get out of their cars… (more)

I am getting confused now. This article leads one to believe that the SFMTA is taking some control over placement of these bike stations, and that some areas of the city are getting some notice before the bikes go in. That is not what we have been hearing from the SFMTA. They have been claiming they have nothing to do with the bike stations going into neighborhoods where they re not wanted. Now they are taking responisbility of “doing outreach.”

Do the bike/car/scooter rental corporations have the right to take San Francisco streets and sidewalks? Where are the documents that obligate San Francisco citizens to give up our access to our streets? Show us the documents. Who signed these documents and when? Was there any public discussion about the privatization of our city public property prior to handing it over to the enterprise? Where are the financial statements that show how much money these companies, who claim to be public/private enterprises, are making? If the public payments depend on them making a profit, they public has a right to see the financial records. We need an audit of there books.

 

Riders ding Muni over long waits, construction in latest survey

By Gordon Chin : sfbay – excerpt

Overall Muni rider satisfaction slipped this year after passengers this summer faced long waits at bus stops citywide due to infrequent service caused by the partial closure of the subway and an operator shortage.

The 2018 rider survey, complied by Corey, Canapary & Galanis Research through phone interviews in Chinese, English and Spanish, showed 63 percent of Muni riders surveyed rated Muni service as either “Excellent” or “Good.” Over the last two years, that number had been
at 70…(more)

RELATED:
Muni approval plunges in public survey

How many bus bridges does it take to tie up traffic in San Francisco? Why is Muni doing hundreds of projects at a time and starting more every week instead of finishing the ones underway? Why can’t the street paving jobs be public complaint driven like many others are? If no one is complaining about the condition of a street, leave it alone and fix the ones that are generating the most complaints. SFMTA needs a complete overhaul and that is the message that the public needs to send to the new supervisors as they take office next month.

Supervisor moves to kick private shuttles out of red transit lanes

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfxaminer – excerpt

It’s time for private transit to get out of Muni’s way.

That’s the message from Supervisor Sandra Fewer, who on Monday announced her intention to legally bar private transit vehicles, like tech-industry commuter shuttles, from red transit-only lanes meant to speed public buses.

Fewer’s announcement that she would ask the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to help her craft legislation limiting private access to the transit lanes came at the tail-end of a City Hall hearing where San Franciscans from all corners of The City said they were seeing red over the city policy allowing it.

“The goal should be that public transit is the main mode of the people in San Francisco,” Fewer told the public Tuesday…

However controversy arose in August when SFMTA Citizen Advisory Council member Sue Vaughan discovered the agency planned to allow private transit vehicles use of the soon-to-come Geary Rapid Project red carpet lanes. The discovery has drawn protests from activists and organizations across The City.

The South of Market Community Action Network, United to Save the Mission, Chinatown Community Development Center, Chinatown TRIP, Inner Sunset Action Community, Senior Disability Action, San Francisco Transit Riders and other advocacy groups spoke out Monday against private use of public Muni-only lanes… (more)

Very robust public comments and discussions following the presentation by SFMTA. We look forward to moving ahead to fix some of the many failures of the Red Lanes through a series of legislative improvements.

 

Red Lane Amendments and Efforts to Stop the Corporatization of our Streets

MissionReds

After months of letters, comments and neighborhood pushback against many elements of corporate takeover of our streets and public spaces, many people who shocked by the announcement that some of the Red Lanes in the city are open to use by private enterprise vehicles, such as tech buses, private shuttles, and any vehicle that carries more than 10 riders, based on the definition of a bus.

Supervisor Fewer, among others, scheduled hearings on the use of the Red Lanes that were re-scheduled a couple of times, and reset for early December. As many people were preparing for those meetings, we got the news that recent developments at the Land Use and Transportation Committee may have made those hearings unnecessary.  November 5, 2018, Aaron Peskin aide, Lee Hepner, introduced Amendment 18-862, that was passed unanimously to the Full Board by the Land Use and Transportation Committee:

Ordinance 180862 – Ordinance amending Division I of the Transportation Code to establish a procedure for Board of Supervisors review of Municipal Transportation Agency decisions related to Bus Rapid Transit projects that do not include transit-only areas or lanes for Municipal Railway vehicles, taxis, authorized emergency vehicles, and/or Golden Gate Transit vehicles; and affirming the Planning Department’s determination under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The tape of the meeting is below, go to Item 6: http://sanfrancisco.granicus.com/player/clip/31749?view_id=10&meta_id=642988

As a matter of introduction Mr. Hepler described the areas of concern that are under the purview of the Board of Supervisors, though they are not being added to this amendment at this time.

This is a paraphrased transcript of the meeting:

Within the text of Prop A, there is a provision that allows the Board of Supervisors to enact an ordinance that gives the Board the option to review SFMTA decisions regarding various curb space decisions, bicycle lanes, traffic mitigations and measures etc…

Background information:  Supervisors Peskin and Safai co-sponsored Ordinance 180089, to enact that review provision regarding curb use. That ordinance expressly exempted certain projects from review that were determined to be public interest projects, such as bike lanes, curb modifications for street sweeping, and bus rapid transit projects.

This new ordinance is taking on elements of the Bus Rapid Transit Projects that are not clearly defined in the code and providing guidance as to the scope of the board’s review authority of these projects. This proposal expresses this board’s desire to promote Bus Rapid Transport projects that are generally designed and implemented to further public transportation reliability.

The amendment clarifies the Board of Supervisor’s policy preference. The board would not review BRT projects that are designed for public transportation use, but would take review of BRT projects designed for use by private commercial shuttles, tour busses or other modes of private transportation that might actually impede the flow of public transportation.

The proposed amendment… replaces the words, “bus rapid transit project” with “bus rapid transit project that includes transit only areas or lanes for municipal railway vehicles, taxis, authorized emergency vehicles, and/or Golden Gate Transit Vehicles.”

SFMTA appears to have collaborated on this. The amendment passed to the full Board of Supervisors as is on the agenda for the November 13 Board of Supervisors meeting. We had no notice, but, this appears to be going through rather rapidly. In this case, that may be a good thing.

First-ever woman named SF Muni chief

By Joe Fritgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

The first-ever woman to lead Muni at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency was appointed last week, following the retirement of a man dogged by sexual harassment allegations.

Julie Kirschbaum is the new acting SFMTA director of transit, which she announced to the agency’s transit division on October 29…

As acting deputy director, Kirschbaum managed day-to-day Muni operations, led a system-wide redesign and managed the transit planning and scheduling group, according to SFMTA…

Before Reiskin was hired, Debra Johnson was acting director of transportation, overseeing multiple departments. Carmen Clark also was interim executive director of SFMTA for a time, which oversaw Muni responsibilities. However, Kirschbaum is the first woman to take the reigns as Director of Transit at SFMTA, directly and principally responsible for Muni.

In the Bay Area, however, women-led transportation agencies are the norm. Grace Crunican is general manager of BART, and Tilly Chang oversees the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which primarily serves as a congestion management and transportation planning body… (more)

We can only hope that a new era of respect for the workers and Muni riders will open the door to some much needed changes in the top-down management style of the department. We hope the new director will concentrate on running a cleaner, safer, more reliable transit system today and get out of the planning department. We hope the new director will direct the staff to do the public’s bidding instead of forcing the pubic to follow the staff’s schemes. Just give it a try for 6 months and see if the ridership levels to not go up and the public does not approve.

Citing management failures, city withholds funds for Salesforce Transit Center expansion

By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt

A city transportation body voted Tuesday to suspend “all further financial assistance” for work on the Salesforce Transit Center, citing a lack of faith in the project’s leadership.

It is the latest delay to transit center funding, after $200 million was held up by a Board of Supervisors committee last Thursday for clarification purposes. That funding will return for a vote this week at the board.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority Board, which is comprised of the Board of Supervisors, voted unanimously to delay $9.6 million in funds to the Transbay Joint Power Authority until The City can evaluate what led to the discovery last month of cracks in two steel beams, shutting down the newly constructed $2.2 billion transit center…

Supervisor Aaron Peskin said it is vital that The City plans the multi-billion dollar project effectively, making it essential to re-evaluate the transit center’s leadership before the next phase of transit center design begins.

“The right time to get it right is in the beginning,” Peskin said…(more)

The solution to dealing with the accountability problem is to pass a Charter Amendment to restructure the departments that are responsible for the transportation mess that seems to be pushing us toward a private corporate takeover of our streets. The shadowy regional TJPA has been a thorn in our sides for a while. Now we see the results of their efforts. What will it take for citizens to act? Ask the candidates for supervisor what they will do when they are in charge.

The transportation equity conundrum: 6 ways cities can improve mobility without displacement

By James Aloisi and Jarred Johnson : greenbiz – excerpt

What do we think about when we think about transportation equity?

There is regional equity — the question whether every region in a state, or every neighborhood in a city, is equitably treated from a funding perspective. There is modal funding equity, which goes to whether public sector decision makers treat each mode fairly when it comes to the allocation of limited public funding resources. Then there is ridership equity — are users of the transportation system being provided reasonably equal, meaningful modal choices, enabling access to jobs, healthcare, education and opportunity? Social equity, which builds the bonds that knit together the durable fabric of a healthy moral society, has a broader meaning. Fundamentally, social equity relates not simply to treating all people fairly, but also recognizing, acknowledging and acting on righting historical wrongs. Often that means stepping up investment in neighborhoods and communities that historically have been shortchanged when it comes to transportation funding…

While many planners and policymakers genuinely want to be responsive to rider needs, the reality is that inequities remain ingrained in large part because of habitual neglect… If a person or family cannot afford to remain in a gentrifying neighborhood the egalitarian and social cohesion benefits of a sustainable mobility system are being lost…

The author proposes a six-point approach to guide planners and advocates as they face the challenges of introducing transit improvements in underserved neighborhoods that are skeptical of change or fearful of displacement (or both):

  1. Ensure that the transit rider is heard
  2. Remember the unbanked
  3. Clean the power sources
  4. Educate, train and fund transit riders
  5. Attract and keep transit ‘riders of choice’
  6. Deal with the displacement issue head-on